A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge,

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
At daybreak on Saturday, smoke billows from a fire on the Kerch bridge. Stringer/Reuters

A massive explosion has seriously destroyed the sole bridge linking the occupied Crimean peninsula to the Russian mainland, effectively shutting down a vital supply line for Moscow's floundering war in Ukraine.

Images and video from the area indicated that the blast early Saturday destroyed portions of the Kerch Strait road and rail bridge, which Putin himself opened in 2018. According to early information, at least three persons were killed in the blast, according to Russian officials.

The precise cause of the explosion at Europe's longest bridge has yet to be determined. According to Russian officials, a vehicle detonated, forcing portions of the road leading to Crimea to collapse. Following that, a train of gasoline tanks on a second, neighboring rail part of the bridge caught fire.

Putin has appointed a "government panel" to investigate the Kerch bridge "emergency" in Crimea, according to Russian official media TASS.

An official in Crimea blamed the explosion on "Ukrainian vandals." Some Ukrainian authorities gloated over the catastrophe without taking direct blame. According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova, "the Kyiv regime's reaction to the destruction of civilian infrastructure demonstrates its terrorist nature."

The damage to the road bridge looks to be significant, with at least two sections of the bridge that carry westbound traffic incapacitated. The extent of the damage to the rail connection where the fuel tanks caught fire is unknown.

The bridge is strategically significant because it connects Russia's Krasnodar region to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine in 2014 in a move that was widely denounced by the international community.

It is a vital artery for feeding Crimea with both everyday necessities and military supplies. Hundreds of Russian military convoys transporting vehicles, armor, and gasoline have utilized the bridge in recent months.

If the Russian military is unable to use the bridge, its supply lines to soldiers in southern Ukraine would grow increasingly vulnerable, especially in light of Ukrainian advances south into the Kherson area, north of Crimea.

Russia has exploited Crimean railroads to transport supplies to soldiers in Kherson, while long-range Ukrainian rockets have hit multiple rail terminals in both Crimea and Kherson.

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
Notes: "Assessed" indicates that the Institute for the Study of War has acquired credible and independently verified evidence demonstrating Russian control or gains in those locations. Russian advances are regions in which Russian forces have operated or started operations but do not hold control. "Claimed" locations are those where sources claim control or counteroffensives are taking place, but ISW cannot confirm or disprove them. Source: The Institute for the Study of War with AEI’s Critical Threats Project Graphic: RenĂ©e Rigdon, CNN

After the explosion, "two spans of the roadbed of the segment [of the bridge] from Krasnodar to Kerch collapsed," according to Sergey Aksenov, the Russian-appointed Head of Crimea, and a train's fuel tanks caught fire.

A piece of the 19-kilometer (11-mile) bridge appears to have fallen into the sea below, with many burnt rail fuel tanks left on the next track, according to video and photographs from the bridge.

"As soon as the fire is out, we'll be able to examine the degree of damage to the bridge and pillars, and we'll be able to talk about when traffic will be restored," Aksenov added.

According to early information, three persons were killed in the event, "probably the passengers of a car that was near to the blown-up truck," according to Russia's Investigative Committee on Telegram.

The remains of at least two people, a man and a woman, were pulled from the water, and their identities were being determined, according to the investigation panel.

The vehicle that detonated belonged to someone in Russia's Krasnodar area, according to records; detectives are inspecting the owner's residence and attempting to discover the truck's path, according to the investigative committee.

The bridge spans the Kerch Strait, which connects the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov, where vital Ukrainian ports such as Mariupol are located. The bridge represents Russia's physical "reunification" of Crimea with the Russian mainland.

There have been no new announcements about the commission's timeline or scope.

According to Russian official media RIA Novosti, "no forecasts for the date of the repair of the Crimean bridge have been made yet," quoting Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov.

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
On October 8, 2022, a view shows gasoline tanks on fire and damaged parts of the Kerch bridge. Stringer/Reuters

"Ukrainian vandals," according to a Crimean official, are to blame.

"Somehow, Ukrainian vandals managed to get their bloody claws on the Crimean bridge." And now they have something to be proud of, because in 23 years of economic activity, they have not built anything worthy of notice in Crimea. "However, they were successful in undermining the roadbed of the Russian bridge," claimed Vladimir Konstantinov, Chairman of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea.

"This is the essence of the Kiev government and Ukrainian state... Of course, the accident's causes will be examined, and the damage will be remedied as soon as possible," he said.

Reaction of Ukraine to explosion

Ukrainian officials mocked Russia over the explosion without officially admitting responsibility for the strike.

"Air defense of the Russian Federation, are you sleeping?" the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine asked on Facebook, accompanied a video of a fully wrecked piece of the bridge's road.

"Illegal building in Russia is beginning to crumble and catch fire." The rationale is simple: if you create anything explosive, it will detonate sooner or later. And this is only the beginning," David Arakhamia, the parliamentarian leader of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's party and a member of Kyiv's negotiation team with Russia, said in a Telegram message about the event.

Oleksiy Danilov, a top Ukrainian official, shared a video of the destroyed Kerch bridge along with a recording of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday, Mr President," which she sang for President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Putin celebrated his 70th birthday on Friday.

According to Oleksii Hromov, a senior General Staff officer, Ukrainian soldiers have advanced 55 kilometers in the north-east since September 21, "establishing authority over 93 communities, [and] taking control over more than 2,400 square kilometers."

Hromov seems to be referring to advances in the Kharkiv region made prior to September 21 but only acknowledged subsequently.

"In the Kherson direction, the enemy is attempting to counter-attack at the expense of reserves in order to halt our progress and retake lost ground." "We have seized control of 29 villages since October 1," he stated.

In an August interview, a top Ukrainian military officer stated that the Kerch bridge was a suitable target.

"This is a necessary action to deny them (Russia) the ability to send reserves and replenish their soldiers from Russian territory," Maj. Gen. Dmytro Marchenko told RBC-Ukraine.

The Russian bridge to Crimea

The Kerch bridge can accommodate 40,000 automobiles per day and transport 14 million people and 13 million tons of freight each year, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti, which launched the bridge in 2018.

In February 2014, Russian special troops disguised in camouflage and lacking unit insignia took Crimea in a rapid assault. Russia first denied that its forces had carried out the operation. It later admitted that the so-called "little green guys" were, in fact, Russian forces. The West promptly retaliated with devastating economic sanctions.

The United States criticized the bridge's construction as unlawful when it opened.

According to a US State Department statement at the time, "Russia's building of the bridge serves as a reminder of Russia's persistent propensity to defy international law."

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
Putin drives a Kamaz tractor at the bridge's opening ceremony on May 15, 2018. Alexander Nemenov/Pool/Reuters

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
In March 2018, President Vladimir Putin inaugurates the road-rail bridge connecting Crimea to Russia's mainland. Yury Kochetkov/AP

"The bridge not only marks Russia's attempt to consolidate its illegal acquisition and occupation of Crimea, but it also impedes navigation by restricting the size of ships that may cross the Kerch Strait, the sole access to Ukraine's territorial seas in the Sea of Azov."

Following the incident, Ukrainian officials repeated same comments.

"Crimea, the bridge, the start. "Everything unlawful must be destroyed, everything stolen must be restored to Ukraine, and everything seized by Russia must be ejected," Mykhailo Podoliak, a Ukrainian leader's adviser, said.

In eastern Ukraine, a train was struck.

Meanwhile, a freight train in the Russian-occupied Donetsk area was damaged by a "strong explosion" on Saturday morning, according to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andrushenko's counsel.

"Not only Crimea. It's not just gasoline tanks. In Ilovaisk, there is also a cargo train. Locals claim to have witnessed a tremendous explosion and subsequent detonation late at night. "The occupiers are now having major supply challenges from both sides," Andrushenko added.

A massive explosion cripples portions of the Crimea-Russia bridge, dealing a setback to Putin's military effort.
Saturday morning, a cargo train in the Russian-occupied Donetsk area was rocked by a "huge explosion."  Press Service of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the DPR

Pro-Russian officials in the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk verified the freight train incident on Saturday, posting video of the fire's aftermath at a nearby railway station.

The fire was started by shelling "by Ukrainian terrorists," according to Russia's Ministry of Emergency Situations on Telegram. 

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden expressed concern about the risks posed by Putin's nuclear threats, as his forces suffered further defeats in Ukraine.

"For the first time since the Cuban missile crisis, we face a direct threat of using (a) nuclear bomb if things continue on their current path," Biden said Thursday evening at a Democratic fundraiser in New York.

"I don't think there's such such thing as being able to quickly (use) a tactical nuclear bomb and not end up with Armageddon," he continued.

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